Terror is an emotion that I rarely feel, but I felt it last week. Here in the South we have suffered from a long drought this fall. We have had a record breaking sixty-something days without rain. Everything is dry and dusty. The leaves just went from green to brown this year. No beautiful, colorful displays…just dry, crackly, dead leaves falling from the parched trees. The creeks and ponds have all dried up and the animals have gathered close to water in very odd places. There is also a burn ban in effect, so no one in our area will enjoy fall bonfires this year either. It is a sad thing to look at every day. Needless to say, we have all prayed for rain a lot lately.
It seems like God has heard our prayers though because He is sending rain. Only, where I live; when He sends rain this time of the year it always holds the possibility of tornadoes.
Like all Central-Alabamians I had my TV tuned into James Spann for updates all day last Wednesday. I looked at the forecast and I physically prepared as best as I could for the possibility of bad weather. I guess you could say that I was as prepared as prepared can be! Only, I was not emotionally prepared for the storm that was about to hit me.
For nearly 38 years I never truly feared storms. I have lived through many bad weather events (including April 27,2011) living in this part of the state. There have been hurricanes, tornadoes, winter storms, thunder storms, lighting strikes, and torrential rain events. Through all of those I never really felt scared…much less terrified, until last week.
See, during every storm over the past 17 years I had Greg with me. He protected me. He told me what to do and where to go. It was never a question of what I needed to do because he was always one step ahead of me. We spent MANY nights with our friends at the fire department. We spent MANY nights in our friends’ basements. We spent MANY nights ready to pick up the pieces the storms left behind. We spent ALL of those nights together.
Before I was married I lived: at home with my parents and three siblings; in a town home with three of my friends; in an apartment with my cousin; and in the dorms at Bevill. I never once lived alone…and I can honestly say that there has not been one night of any type of weather event that I have ever spent alone in my whole life…until last Wednesday night.
Our friends Kyle and Amy came over with their three boys before the first round of bad weather hit. It looked to be all clear around 10:30, so they went back up the hill and left me alone with my girls for the rest of the night. Amy offered to stay, but I honestly thought that I was OK with them leaving…until James Spann issued a tornado warning around 12:00. That’s when I felt terror hit my soul.
I leaped out of bed, shook my sleeping girls awake, and practically fell down the steps into the storm shelter as the rain pelted the tin roof of our home. I was shaking all over and praying that the storm would pass quickly. Thankfully it did. There were two more rounds after that one; so we stayed in the storm room until morning. I would ease my way up the steps occasionally so that I could see if James Spann had anything to say and to check FB for reports. Sitting in the storm room I had no cell phone signal…no WiFi…no house phone…and no power. It was just me, my girls, and our flashlights. Talk about scared. Yes, I was scared.
I missed Greg so much during those moments that I had to physically restrain myself from sobbing. Tears streamed down my face as I watched my girls try to sleep on that cold, concrete floor. It hit me (again) that I am totally responsible for keeping them alive and safe…even during the storms.
I fought the panic that was rising up in my chest. I took deep breaths and I swallowed my sobs. I refused to let the terror of the moment consume me. I looked up and I asked God to help us. What else could I do?
God knew I was down in that hole with my two girls. He knew I was alone in the storm for the first time. He knew I missed Greg more than anything else on earth. It wasn’t a surprise to Him. He knew that THIS moment was going to happen long before it actually happened. And, He had prepared for it by making Greg install the storm shelter years ago.
I remember the day that he came home and told me that he had bought a storm shelter. I didn’t really think we had the money to spend on one at that time, but he had found this one for a really good price he said. The guy who came to dig the hole had to be extra cautious as he dug because two little girls had to be right there to watch each bucketful of dirt as it came out of the ground. I remember the day we laid the blocks and poured the cement around it. I also remember how I insisted that the heating and air ducts be hooked into it so that it didn’t get all moldy down there. Greg made sure that everything was just right with it and he seemed really happy that we finally had a place to go for bad weather here at home.
The girls and I walked out of that storm shelter together that next morning. Greg had protected us once again by thinking ahead. We had made it through the storm and our home was still in tact. I can’t say the same for my emotions. It took me several days to figure out why I was so terrified and why I was so emotionally desperate to have my husband back. Today, I figured it out.
That storm was another first. They say that you mark off most of the “firsts” during the first year. I guess I can say that is pretty accurate. However, what they don’t say is that firsts pop up unannounced a lot even after that first year ends. Here I was thinking I was doing pretty good on this grief train…the roller coaster tract had leveled out some I guess you’d say…then BAM! Out of nowhere I hit a 90 degree turn without slowing down. I had zero forewarning and all I could do was hang on for dear life.
I have fought the darkness a lot lately. The holiday season is rough. The roughness is compounded by Greg’s approaching birthday. Emotionally, it’s just a lot of baggage to sort through. I really don’t remember a whole lot from last Christmas. My very wise friend said that I was still numb this time last year and it is not surprising that I don’t really remember a whole lot of details. This year, I am not numb to the pain anymore. It is still very much here and there’s not much that I can do about it. Dang it!
Time helps a lot though. Deciding everyday to keep going and not give up is something I will always have to do I reckon. I don’t see how I can ever get to the point where another first won’t knock me to my knees. That part never gets easier…so I just have to get stronger. I have to stay on guard and be ready for every first left to come.
Knowing that I have to stay ready helps too. It is what the guys at the FD have to do all of the time. They never know when that pager goes off what they might have to face. They don’t know what kind of nightmare they may be fighting. I’m thankful that I understand that now.
I am also thankful for the ones who answer my texts during the storms. Knowing that they know where and how to find us is a big deal to me and the girls. It was a big deal to Greg as well. He taught me a lot over the years…but knowing who to trust no matter what when the going gets tough was something he spent a lot of time drilling into my head. I can see (again) how right he was about that now. I could hear him telling me to tell them that we were OK. I know that he was with us through the whole thing.
So, Life goes on. We push forward and we keep going. The storms may hit us unaware sometimes, but I have Faith that God is never surprised even if we are. None of us have to give in to the terror or panic during our separate storms, because He gives shelter during every storm. He gives comfort and calmness when we need it the most. I’m very thankful for His promises and I know that “His eye is on the sparrow and He watches over me.” That’s pretty awesome!